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Salmon relief bill on to Senate

By James Monteleone

Triplicate Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – A bill giving federal assistance to fishermen and to rural schools is on its way to the Senate after passing the U.S. House by a wide margin Thursday night.

The vote reflected strong bipartisan support for domestic funding previously dismissed as "pork."

But House leaders want to bundle the domestic aid with the Iraq war spending legislation, also approved Thursday. Senate leaders have said the measure is likely to fall short as long as it remains linked to the Iraq bill.

The domestic emergency funding bill approved by the House, 302 to 120, provides $60.4 million for salmon fishermen disaster relief, $425 million for financial shortfalls in rural school systems, and $500 million to assist in fighting wildfires. Some of the money in the bill the bill would flow to Del Norte and Curry counties.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., has previously said he would push the salmon fishermen disaster relief money through any legislative method available. The strong vote indicates support for the relief has gained momentum, said Anne Desmond Warden, an aide to the lawmaker.

The rural school aid is designed to help schools systems, such as Del Norte County's, that are under-funded because the majority of taxable land in the county is federally owned and generates no tax revenue.

"I have one county that has 80 percent federally owned property and to talk about rubbing salt on the wound, not only do they get their school funding and their road maintenance funding taken away, but they're still required to maintain the roads throughout this federally owned property," Thompson said of Del Norte County in a speech made in the House Thursday.

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